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Marriage with western husband in sickness and in stealth

By Zhang Yiwei (Global Times)

17:16, July 29, 2013

It seems that finding a Western husband is no longer mission impossible for Chinese women who don't speak much English. All they need to do is pick an "intermediary agent" and sign a contract. These agents will do the rest, writing love letters in English and helping to screen candidates. After meeting the Western guy they pick out and establishing a connection, these ladies may go West to start their new lives.

But as with all fairy tale endings, risks are part of the game. In a recent case heard by a Beijing court, a man was convicted of fraud after he provided the aforementioned service to 23 women but failed to find a Western husband for any of them.

Matchmaking services for Chinese women and foreign men have existed in China for years, despite long being subject to an official ban. The huge demands for such services and authorities not taking action on agents have allowed them to operate smoothly and largely above board for two decades.

Matchmakers prevail

Liu Xiaopeng, 39, from Heilongjiang Province, launched a company to help Chinese women who want to emigrate to other countries by finding a foreign husband five years ago. The company signed up for accounts on international dating sites and sought to find suitable foreign men for the clients.

Liu charged every client 35,000 yuan ($5,705) to 80,000 yuan while 23 women paid more than a total of a million yuan over five years, according to documents sent to the Global Times by the Chaoyang district court in Beijing.

But according to the company's registration information from the commercial bureau, Liu's company was set up to liaise and provide communication assistance for international trading and business cooperation.

But this brand of matchmaking between foreigners and Chinese continues to expand domestically and many such companies advertise a flourishing success rate, claiming hundreds of successful matches. Unlike Liu's company, which did not have the right to enter the marriage-broker business, many involved in the business operate by being "intermediary agents."

A Guangzhou-based marriage broker that opened its doors as early as 1998 said that their main job is to act as translators between their clients and potential foreign spouses.

"We sign up for accounts for our clients on different international dating sites and chat with foreign men on behalf of our clients," one employee for the agency, Tingting, said. She added that they have access to clients' mailboxes and translate the letters sent and received by the clients.

Tingting said the foreign men they talk to have no idea they are talking to an intermediary agent, instead of the matrimonially inclined Chinese woman herself.

"Most Western men see these sorts of romantic chats as a very private process that should be held just between two people. That is why we pretend to be the clients themselves," explained Tingting. She elaborated on why their clients must accept and pay for the translation service, as well as the agency actually taking over all communication. However, she failed to explain despite repeated questioning how the foreign men react upon eventually meeting Chinese women who can speak no English, despite believing the contrary during many e-mail conversations.

Unhappy marriages

The typical profile of the Chinese woman that seeks to marry foreign men through these agencies is a middle-aged lady, between 40 and 60, that is having difficulties to find a husband in China, said Tingting.

"In China, older women have trouble finding spouses, but unlike Chinese men, Western guys don't care so much about a woman's age and whether she's divorced or not," Tingting said. "On the contrary, they often fancy Chinese women more as Chinese women have the reputation of taking care of their families and being mild-tempered."

Tingting's agency charges every client 20,000 yuan for helping them to find a foreign husband within two years. If the client is satisfied with the foreign man the company recommends after both sides agree to meet, she must pay another 18,000 yuan.

Hu Zhouxiong, a lawyer specializing in marriage cases involving foreigners from Guangdong Bohao Law firm, told the Global Times that many Chinese women who choose to find a foreign husband believe that the living environment in the West is better than in China and want to obtain a foreign citizenship.

"But even if they marry a foreign man and go to live in the West, their marriages often end unhappily," Hu said. "The communication barrier between the couples becomes a big problem as time passes."

In spite of Tingting's assertion that many of her clients go to live abroad except for a few whose standards are too high, instances where clients of these intermediary agents ask for a refund occur far more often.

In Liu's case, a victim surnamed Jin from Liaoning Province who paid Liu 70,000 yuan to find a foreign husband felt cheated. After her prospective American candidate came to China to meet Jin, who bought a dictionary but still barely managed to communicate with the man, he was unhappy at the idea of marrying her and flew home, never to contact her again.

Lawsuits similar to Liu's caused quite a stir around 2009 as "international matchmakers" were prosecuted successively for covert matchmaking between Chinese and foreigners, which has been banned in China since 1994.

Most of the companies that stood trial were convicted of operating illegal businesses, regardless of whether they argued that they just provided translation services instead of matchmaking.

Speaking of the service's illegality, Tingting said that her company even has an affiliate that focuses on getting visas for their clients. She mentioned this subsidiary had been running very smoothly for a decade.

Citing the prevalence of these agents that provide these forbidden services, Hu said there remains a large market for these agents, which allowed them to flourish given the authorities' reluctance to crack down on them.

"After all, compared with other ways of migration, getting married with a foreign man is the easiest way to obtain a foreign citizenship," Hu said.

Email|Print|Comments(Editor:GaoYinan、Chen Lidan)

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